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NCAA Basketball Decision, Other Developments Yield Good News For Buffs

Sep 16, 2020

BOULDER — Division I college basketball teams were given a firm opening date Wednesday, when the NCAA Division I Council approved moving the start date for the men's and women's season to Nov. 25 for the 2020-21 season.

That, plus some promising statements from officials in California and Oregon, is good news for the University of Colorado men's and women's teams, as it moves the Buffs one step closer to actually opening their seasons. 

Of course. CU won't be able to proceed unless Pac-12 decision-makers also reverse course on their August decision to postpone all competition until at least Jan. 1. But that now seems to be a better possibility than it was a few weeks ago, especially given how the landscape has changed.

One major development came in early September, when the Pac-12 announced an agreement with the Quidel Corporation that will give every conference school the ability to provide daily Covid-19 testing for every student-athlete in contact sports by the end of September. That, plus a continuously better understanding of how to battle the virus and improved protocols could allow the conference to give the go-ahead for Pac-12 basketball teams to begin their seasons on Nov. 25.

"I hope it's a step in the right direction," said CU men's coach Tad Boyle of Wednesday's NCAA decision. "We still don't know what the future holds, but the recent news about daily testing being available hopefully in late September or early October is definitely a step in the right direction. I think moving back the start of basketball season from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25 is a prudent decision to allow everyone to ramp up and hopefully we can all compete safely."

One obstacle faced by the Pac-12 in all fall sports has been governmental restrictions in Oregon and California that are preventing programs at six of the Pac-12 schools from holding full team workouts. Wednesday, however, Oregon governor Kate Brown said she would give the University of Oregon and Oregon State exemptions from those restrictions if they can meet state guidelines. California governor Gavin Newsom has also indicated his state would be willing to work with Pac-12 schools to help them return to competition.

In response, Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott issued this statement late Wednesday:

"The Pac-12 welcomes today's statements by Governor Newsom of California and Governor Brown of Oregon that state public health officials will allow for contact practice and return to competition, and that there are no state restrictions on our ability to play sports in light of our adherence to strict health and safety protocols and stringent testing requirements, including our recently announced partnership with Quidel which will enable daily rapid results testing.  We appreciate Governor Newsom's and Governor Brown's support, the former of which is consistent with the very productive conversation that he and I had earlier today.  Our California and Oregon universities will now each individually and immediately reach out to their relevant county public health officials to seek clarification on what is required to achieve the same clearance to resume contact practice and competition.  We are eager for our student-athletes to have the opportunity to play this season, as soon as it can be done safely and in accordance with public health authority approvals."

The Nov. 25 basketball start date — the day before Thanksgiving — was chosen in part by the NCAA because roughly 75 percent of Division I schools will have either concluded their fall terms or moved the rest of their semesters to online instruction at that point. According to an NCAA press release, that will create "a more controlled and less populated campus environment that may reduce the risk of COVID-19 that can occur between student-athletes and the broader student body population."

Colorado is one of those schools that will send students home for the Thanksgiving break, then finish the rest of the semester online.

Wednesday's NCAA decision included these changes to the "normal" regular season:

— In men's basketball, teams can schedule 24 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to three games; 25 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to two games; or 25 regular-season games if a team does not participate in a multiple-team event.

— In women's basketball, teams can schedule 23 regular-season games and participate in one multiple-team event that includes up to four games or schedule 25 regular-season games if a team does not compete in a multiple-team event.

— Teams will meet requirements and be considered for NCAA championship selection if they play 13 games. For NCAA championship consideration, all 13 games must be against another Division I opponent.  (The Division I Men's Basketball and Division I Women's Basketball committees also recommended teams play a minimum of four nonconference games.)

— Programs can begin preseason practice on Oct. 14 and will have 42 days to conduct a maximum of 30 practices. During this time, players can work out up to 20 hours per week, four hours per day, and must have one day off per week. 

The NCAA also approved a transition practice period between current out-of-season activities and preseason practice. This transition period is designed to provide additional time for players to prepare for the upcoming season based on the mental and physical challenges basketball players are facing as a result of the pandemic. The transition period will occur Sept. 21-Oct. 13, and teams may participate in strength and conditioning activities, sport-related meetings and skill instruction for up to 12 hours a week, with an eight-hour limit on skill instruction. Players must have two days off per week during the transition period.

"From my standpoint as the head coach of the University of Colorado, I've been optimistic from Day One that we'll play basketball this year," Boyle said. "I've been hopeful and confident and I still feel that way. I try to relay that to our players in a realistic way. But I've got confidence that we'll be able to do it safely and our players will be able to get back to doing what they love, and that's compete on the basketball floor."